It seemed that basketball wasn't the only game being staged last week at Augusta Christian Schools.
During the Region 4-AAA matchups with Westminster, it looked like the Augusta Christian girls were playing musical chairs, and the Lions played cat-and-mouse with the visiting Wildcats.
All 12 member of the Lady Lions' squad hit the court Tuesday - before the first quarter was over.
The AC girls posted an easy 60-47 win, but the liberal substitutions weren't made to keep the score from getting out of hand.
"Pretty much everybody plays," AC coach Keith Walton explained. "We're so young, we're just trying to build some depth. The only way to learn is to get out there and play. They aren't learning anything sitting on the bench next to me."
Another learning process took place in the nightcap.
The Lions ran to an early 20-9 lead, and it appeared the rout was on. Augusta Christian then suffered a series of mental lapses that allowed Westminster to tie the game at 29 heading into halftime.
"We got that early lead off of emotion, and were creating just on our athletic ability," Lions coach Marty Griffin said. "When that stopped happening in the second quarter, we couldn't get into our offense."
Augusta Christian's Sarah Beth McKinney tangles with Westminster's Mary Rob Plunkett during Tuesday's match.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The Westminster rally was the least of the Lions' worries - things got really intense at halftime, as Griffin delivered a fiery locker-room speech.
"I got on 'em pretty good there, and they responded," he said. "We've got to defend our home court. We've got to win every game here."
After committing 12 fouls in the first half, AC cut that number to five in the second. Adam McKinney controlled the boards, point guard Dan Wiley guided the offense, Jamal Womble provided defense, and Warren Chapman did everything for the Lions with 21 points, four steals and three assists.
Westminster could only watch as the Lions rolled to a 63-49 victory.
"We were so much smarter in the second half," Griffin said. "We grew up a little bit in the second half."
By avoiding an upset, Augusta Christian improved its record to 11-3, and 2-1 in Region 4-AAA.
The Lady Lions, meanwhile, also stand 2-1 in region play heading into a key Region 4-AAA contest this Tuesday at Augusta Preparatory Day School. AC's 7-7 overall record has been highlighted by big wins over First Presbyterian Day and Briarwood.
"We're playing pretty well right now," Walton said. "We're not where we need to be, but we're pretty close."
Walton has a luxury not afforded many prep basketball coaches - he has 12 players, and has confidence in all of them.
Augusta Christian's Stacie Airaghi (center) gets tangled up with Westminster's Mary Rob Plunkett (left) as her teammate Lynlee Satcher assists.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"We usually sub five in, five out," he said. "The second five, which we call The Flavor Unit, will give us a good spark off the bench and let the first five rest a bit."
By having fresh players at his disposal, Walton has the ability to use a high-paced, full-court-pressure approach to wear down opponents.
Against Westminster, the Lady Lions had three players score in double figures. Virginia Wright led the way with 14 points, Larrie Reece had 12, and Brittany Little scored 10.
In all, 10 different girls tallied points for Augusta Christian.
So far this season, two sophomores have paced AC. Shanice Broadwater leads the team in scoring, and center Sarah Beth McKinney is averaging nearly 17 rebounds per game, which tops the Georgia Independent School Association.
Individual statistics aren't enhanced when playing time is split between a dozen players - but that's not a concern for the Lady Lions. They have bought into Walton's system of spreading the wealth.
"They don't even think about it," he said. "They're extremely unselfish, which is a rare breed."
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